Mans Cultural District

Downtown Mansfield

MANSFIELD — What would be noticeable changes to parking in the downtown area are expected to be around the corner.

A study has just been done by a consultant and town officials pledge to move promptly to see recommendations implemented.

Matt Smith of Nelson/Nygaard Consulting Associates of Boston appeared before select board members last week to present results of the parking study.

Smith found parking and signs downtown inconsistent and confusing.

The consultant called it an “unfriendly parking environment.”

“It’s unusual you don’t have any parking regulations” for downtown, Smith said.

That is something that Police Chief Ronald Sellon says makes it a challenge for his department when it comes to parking enforcement.

Parking time limits should be adjusted, extending the limits from two to four hours for the convenience of visitors to downtown businesses and other locations, the consultant advised.

Signs should be used to encourage parking on side streets and in lots.

Even parking there would be closer to businesses than many shoppers experience walking from a large plaza or mall lot, Smith mentioned.

To free up more parking for customers, business employees should park away from the businesses, possibly on side streets, Smith added.

“Employee parking I think is huge,” select board member Steven Schoonveld said. “It’s frustrating for customers all the time.”

Smith also recommended putting to use the commuter rail lots during the weekend and nights.

“They’re a valuable resource next to the train station but only used weekdays,” Smith said.

Consolidating the lots should be looked into to make them more efficient, he said.

Restriping parking spaces and allowing for angled parking are other options.

“Because you have development coming, you want to make sure you maximize spaces you already have,” Smith said.

Adding more bike racks and other amenities such as more lightning are needed to make the downtown more attractive and encourage bicyclists and pedestrians — especially nights and weekends, Smith said.

The steps would also improve pedestrian connectivity to the train station.

Calling the station a “huge amenity,” Smith highlighted it is one of the busiest in the MBTA system.

As the downtown area is being developed more, pedestrians are increasing in number.

The consultant said the town must be proactive planning for the future and redevelopment.

“There are massive changes in transportation,” Smith said, noting they started to take place in the cities such as ride sharing services. “It is percolating out to the suburbs.”

Setting aside spaces to encourage ride sharing services is recommended.

The key is to “ensure that parking serves the needs of all users,” Smith said.

Select board Chairman Jess Aptowitz said he has observed downtown being busy nights near and on weekends.

“Our downtown has been studied to death,” select board member Neil Rhein said. “It’s always been an issue. Let’s make sure we do something this time.”

New signs are a step that can be swiftly taken, Smith noted.

Select board members plan to tackle the recommendations on Sept. 25.

Stephen Peterson can be reached at 508-236-0377.

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